Why did Justin Bieber get arrested?

According to the Miami Police, Justin Bieber got arrested last night for a DUI, drag racing and peacefully resisting arrest.

Regardless of what you feel about his music, it’s never a happy thing when someone stumbles like this.

The truly sad thing is that this kind of situation is more common than you think. I’ve seen lots of leaders wrestle with what is crushing Bieber. What is the cause of most of his problems?

Overwhelming success.

In fact, I’ve seen success ruin more leaders than failure.

Why? Because we prepare for failure and are surprised by success. We are not ready for it. We think it will be wonderful, not a challenge. And then we get it and lose everything in the midst of winning everything. What are the the signs you’re headed to this dire destination as a leader?

Here are four:

1. Your success outpaces your maturity.
This can take the form of money, attention or a million other things. This is why NFL players like Vince Young will go broke after receiving tens of millions of dollars. When they get that first multi-million dollar check at 22 years old, their income has outpaced their maturity. You don’t have to be a millionaire either. A 35 year old who has never known true success can get outpaced with responsibility at work just as easily.

2. You become an idea, not an individual.
Once you succeed a little, you want to repeat that success. You start to play to other people’s expectations. Instead of saying what you want to say, you say what other people what you to say. You become a caricature of yourself.

3. You surround yourself with yes men.
From pastors to popstars, this is the kiss of death. If people can’t tell you the word no or if telling you no is associated with questioning your integrity as a leader, you are doomed.

4. You refuse to admit you’re wrong.
Leaders who can’t say, “I was wrong,” are not leaders. They are success puppets, wobbling about on a stage of their own creation, believing their own press and leading the people who follow them into eventual failure.

I would say that the first two are the ones I’ve personally struggled with the most. I haven’t had much success, but it’s all relative and you’d be surprised how little it takes you to get drunk on it. My wife @JennyAcuff is too awesome to let me deal too much with the last two. But I can’t imagine being a 19 year old millionaire like Bieber. I had about $10 to my name when I was that age and found a way to be an idiot.

And I’m not the only one who understands the weight of success. Steve Jobs once described starting over this way, “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” What a great phrase, “the heaviness of being successful.” That speaks to the expectation of success and being a beginner is all about being wrong. If even Steve Jobs struggled with success, chances are a lot of us will too.

I hope you are successful. I have known many leaders who did great things with their success. Bob Goff and David Weekley are friends of mine who’s success has only amplified their character and multiplied their generosity. Success can be a wonderful thing. But don’t be caught off guard by it. Plan how you’ll handle success as aggressively as you plan how you’ll handle failure.

It’s just as dangerous.

Have you ever seen a leader struggle with success?

  • ThatGuyKC
    Posted at 08:41h, 23 January Reply

    Wise insight, Jon. I’m not a fan of Bieber’s music, but I don’t want him to crash and burn either.

    I’ve yet to be challenged w/ these 4 yet am grateful for a wife who keeps me in line. Thanks for the reminder to plan for success instead of just failure.

    Witnessed too many leaders who fall prey to # 3 & 4. If you’ve worked for a leader like this, how do you graciously avoid being a “yes man” and/or broach the concept of fallibility?

  • Katie
    Posted at 08:43h, 23 January Reply

    I’m currently reading David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell and he says something similar. When you have nothing you are free to succeed because you have nothing to lose. (I’m paraphrasing). It’s a great book.

  • LarryTheDeuce
    Posted at 08:43h, 23 January Reply

    Sounds like he considers the Fast and Furious movies to be documentaries.

  • David Mike
    Posted at 08:43h, 23 January Reply

    I’ve seen many salon owners get to big for their britches. Several stylist walkout and it’s over. Usually people at the top with no strong foundation, topple over.

  • steph @ GenerousSavings
    Posted at 08:43h, 23 January Reply

    I have seen far too many pastors or people in ministry deal with #3. I find that one so hard to deal with, because when you surround yourself with yes men, and there is a problem…. or you are leading the church in a dangerous direction… there is nothing anyone who sees the situation clearly can do about it… it is quite frustrating… Also, some of those people, i would not call successful yet… maybe on their way to success… and i find it a scary thing, if they can’t take no for an answer in the early days… when the decisions and responsibilities are small…. just imagine what happens when they are big…

  • Chrissy
    Posted at 08:46h, 23 January Reply

    Great article and awesome insight on Justin Bieber’s spiraling path of destruction.

  • Casey Lewis
    Posted at 08:52h, 23 January Reply

    “I had $10 to my name when I was that age and found a way to be an idiot.” Me too sir. Me too.

    • Bev
      Posted at 09:25h, 23 January Reply

      That made me laugh. But, sadly, I can identify.

  • Alex @ Online Business Geeks
    Posted at 08:59h, 23 January Reply


    Very insightful post my friend.

    Much like yourself, my wife keeps me grounded.

    Something interesting about myself. I find that I battle fear of success, and to punch it in the face, anytime I feel like I’m getting a taste of success, and the voices start “who am I to deserve this, etc..,” I do a random act of kindness. It keeps me who I really am.

    In regards to your question, yes. Yes, I have witnessed leaders struggle with success. My boss at my previous job really struggled hard with it. He quickly became out of touch with his direct reports, and the moral in the office plummeted. People left the company, including me.

    Don’t get comfortable. Don’t become complacent. That’s how people get hurt.

    All the best,

  • Relevant Church Guy (@MrChurchGuy)
    Posted at 09:15h, 23 January Reply

    The stories coming out about his controlled substance habits were a sure sign that bad judgment was taking over.

    I have worked with many young people in need of mild imprecatory prayers. Praying that something will get their attention enough to change them without them destroying themselves. I am doubting that this will do him much good though. He’s firmly caught up in the gears of the entertainment industry and the money from his fans will likely continue to rip him apart.

  • Katie M
    Posted at 09:17h, 23 January Reply

    I have seen many people struggle with their place in leadership and it is more common than some realize, so thank you for this insight, Jon. I have hope for Justin and pray that people can have some compassion for him and think how they would feel if this were their child, brother, friend, husband, etc… instead of some random untouchable celebrity. Addiction is real. Mental health issues are real. This is no joke and happens all around us every day if we are paying attention.

  • Michael Humphrey
    Posted at 09:40h, 23 January Reply

    Great Article Jon! Unfortunately you are spot on. It is sad to watch people imploded because of these and a few more traits that creep in. I believe surrounding yourself with yes people in everyday life is incredibly dangerous and it is also the reason that some will never actually become successful. I have watched this transpire over and over. The other one that I am seeing far more often is the Holier than thou mentality. We are put on this earth to do great things and help each other. When you shun someone simply because you have no gain in helping them, you are stepping onto a very slippery slope.

  • Lauren DeMoss
    Posted at 09:42h, 23 January Reply

    Better to be arrested than to end up dead… Or killing someone else. It’s true though and something to think about.

  • Tom Branch Jr
    Posted at 09:42h, 23 January Reply

    Why even write about him…. Do you know the story of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl ? He is an American soldier that is MIA in Afganstain for over 4 1/2 years and no one knows about him. What has happened to my country ? : (

    • Jon Acuff
      Posted at 10:07h, 23 January Reply

      Tom – As a blogger, I tend to reflect on pop culture. You asking me why I didn’t write about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is like me asking you why you didn’t tweet about Dave Bruce. You didn’t tweet about him in the same way I didn’t write about Bergdahl. Despite him being a hero, I didn’t know he existed. And this is not a new thing that is happening to the country. In the 1950s and 60s the Ed Sullivan show was not interviewing heroes, they were interviewing the Beatles and Elvis. Don’t pretend this is a new thing.

      • Warning
        Posted at 10:49h, 23 January Reply

        And this is important to talk about. Jon isn’t just gossiping about Justin Bieber, but trying to open our eyes to the pain and destruction success can cause not only ourselves but the people around us. Ministry especially has had such a hurtful and negative impact on a lot of people when all the success came crashing down in flames. I’m grateful for Jon’s words of wisdom today.

  • Deon Bent
    Posted at 09:44h, 23 January Reply

    What a great post Jon!

    I work for David Weekley and he has an amazing outlook on life and how to take care of your priorities! What a great man to look up to!

    #1 is so true as a young person in a great career. I have learned (through the help of FPU) to really pay attention to your priorities. Get it done! 🙂

    #2 is easy to fall under too because when others see your fame they try to change you to who they want you to be and not vice versa…ain’t nobody got time for that!

    I am appreciative that the people around me care enough to say girl get off that pedestal!

  • Stineway
    Posted at 10:05h, 23 January Reply

    Spiritual maturity and sobriety, we must acquire them if no one has taught us. Christianity has its rigors and is no cake walk but if we can get our foundation in Christ laid, it is exciting, challenging, devoid of dullness and an adventure, With that in place we won;t feel the need to intoxicate our senses (which ultimately is dulling) or spend money as if it were our salvation as it is only self-medicating and a moment’s distraction against the hard looks at life as it is.

    One of John’s greatest posts to date. My prayer to the Creator is that this lesson will sink in with everyone who comes across it. The largest benefit contained within is that it can only bring us closer to God – Who He is and what He means. The grand adventure awaits as we shed sin to repentance and drop shackles, exchanging them for Christ’s light burden as He shares our yoke with us. Don’t we get it? The Great I Am has designed a few life rules that match our design so we function the best within their gentle confines. To keep the commandments and serve the Lord is freeing and liberating. Sin is what is restrictive.

    • Emmalee Whitaker
      Posted at 07:36h, 24 January Reply

      Whomever you are this is annointed. Thank you very much.

  • John Wilkerson
    Posted at 10:30h, 23 January Reply

    Great thoughts, Jon. BTW, did you know your blog slug in the url is “3-reasons” and you enumerated 4? Yeah. I’m “that guy”.

  • Nick
    Posted at 10:38h, 23 January Reply

    Sad but true. I enjoyed quite a bit of success in business that I kept pressing forward in that area and other areas of my life suffered immensely. Fortunately I realized it before it was too late.

  • Lee
    Posted at 10:40h, 23 January Reply

    God designed our human psyche to give praise not receive it.

  • Kathy Ungren
    Posted at 11:14h, 23 January Reply

    Just a little power is intoxicating to some and crushing to others. I fall into tyrant mode quickly when I’m stressed and feel like I’m in over my head.

    Hard to imagine that level of fame and the entitlement and responsibility (his songs support lots of employee families) it brings. No one to ground him, or no one allowed to stay around him who might ground him.

  • Jessica
    Posted at 11:35h, 23 January Reply

    I absolutely agree that success can be “heavy.” I think that is why Paul prayed the Lord would give him just what he needed for the day. I think that is why the Lord only allowed the Israelites to gather manna for the day, while in the wilderness. I think that is why many of the miracles of Jesus were for individual needs. He could have healed ALL blind men, ALL lame men, ALL sick, but He chose to heal individuals. He could have made the poor, lame man get up and walk AND have unimaginable wealth. But God, in his infinite wisdom, knows that success can be “heavy” for man. That is why we are commanded to give, share, and help others out of the blessings we have been given. I don’t think He does so simply because others need our gifts, but because we don’t need the weight of all our gifts.

    With great wealth comes great responsibility.

    • Peter Warner
      Posted at 21:16h, 24 January Reply

      Thanks be to God for this article, and for your insight and examples, Jessica. They are wonderful and enlightening.
      In fellowship, Peter w.

  • Jordan
    Posted at 12:23h, 23 January Reply

    I think you’re right about “becoming an idea, not an individual” and that it can be expanded on!
    I think the issue with this development is that that IS our idea of success — and it’s more destructive than people realize. When we start to see people as objects, harm/violence is almost certain. This is a problem we see probably the most prominently (without even realizing it) when women are turned into “things” — otherwise known as being objectified. It’s so much easier/permissible for someone to become used, hurt, raped or killed when they’re no longer a person.

  • Ronnie Barnes
    Posted at 12:24h, 23 January Reply

    Coincidentally, I am reading Jim Bakker’s book right now, which is entitled “I was wrong.” What a great and godly man he was and is. If you don’t know who Jim Bakker is, then be born a few years earlier, and you will.

  • Cristina M.
    Posted at 15:13h, 23 January Reply

    Getting arrested is part of their curriculum vitae this days!

  • Sean Buck
    Posted at 15:54h, 23 January Reply

    Awesome post. I have seen some successful people stumble. Another interesting thing about success is that it brings out the haters. Those that stay successful keep marching forward, leaving negativity and haters in their dust. Those that look back seem to get caught into the negativity into a downward spiral. It’s more comfortable to be average. No one takes shots at you for being average.

  • Tim
    Posted at 18:07h, 23 January Reply

    What has happened to celebrities being positive role models to the next generation? Seems that sports players and singer/actors have forgotten that others look up to them. Very disappointing and sad to see them fall.

  • Linda
    Posted at 19:15h, 23 January Reply

    Great post – very thought provoking. We might also take up, not just talking, but PRAYING for these individuals – that the Holy Spirit will touch their hearts and bring people into their lives that are positive influences. To surround them with our prayers will have an eternal effect. Our God does answer prayer!

  • Anne Dovel
    Posted at 22:22h, 23 January Reply

    Thanks for that, Jon. 🙂

  • i hate justin
    Posted at 10:31h, 04 February Reply

    what the f**k he would do drugs

  • Allison Webster
    Posted at 16:10h, 25 February Reply

    Poor Justin gets roasted in the “Oh! Justin Bieber” (song) on YouTube:


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